There are many factors when considering starting a business venture. Business requirements change often. The information listed below is for general reference purposes only. Although BSL has made every effort to ensure accuracy and completeness, BSL accepts no liability for the content contained within.  

1.    Where do business ideas come from?
2.    Am I a good fit for self-employment?
3.    How do I determine the viability of my business venture?
4.    What is a business plan and why do I need one?
5.    How long will it take me to start my business?
6.    What are the government requirements for starting a business?
7.    Do I need business insurance?
8.    What professionals should I seek out when considering starting my business?
9.    How should I structure my business venture?
10.  What is a Commercial Lease?
11.  How much will it cost me to start a business?
12.  Do I need to register my business?
13.  Do I need a municipal licence to start my business?
14.  Where can I get general information about starting a small business?
15.  Is financial assistance available through BSL to assist with starting a business?

1.    Where do business ideas come from? 
Business ideas are derived from many sources such as turning a hobby into an income generating venture, past work experience and training, consumer experience, market research, purchasing an existing business or franchise.  Other sources can be newspapers, internet, magazines, trade publications, and trade shows. 

2.    Am I a good fit for self-employment?
Starting a business can be challenging, you need to be prepared to make  less money and work several more hours per week for the first 3 – 5 years.  You also need to examine the type of individual you are.  Are you a risk taker, are you confident, do you have the ability to accept responsibility, are you assertive, are you goal oriented, flexible, do you pay attention to details, are you organized, and do you have good people skills? These are just some of the traits that are useful to have when considering self-employment.

3.    How do I determine the viability of my business venture?
There is no crystal ball in determining whether or not your business idea will be a successful one. However, before considering starting your business, you should understand the industry you’re entering.   Who is your competition?  Why would individuals or businesses buy your products or service?  Is the market flooded?  Can your product/service compete successfully within your current market place? What is your competitive edge?  Do you have the necessary skills in this field?  Can you secure the necessary start-up funds to launch and maintain this venture?  
Developing a business plan will help answer many of these questions and assist you in determining the viability of your business concept. 

4.    What is a business plan and why do I need one?

A business plan is a tool used by entrepreneurs to summarize their business venture. It explains in detail how your business will be structured, what products or services you offer, how it will operate, and how much money it will earn. It assists the entrepreneur in determining viability. It will also provide investors or commercial lenders with a clear picture of your business venture. 

5.    How long will it take me to start my business?
You should never rush into starting a small business. Take the necessary time to thoroughly explore your market and the requirements necessary to start your business. Self-employment should not be entered into lightly.  The type of business you’re considering should complement your skills and abilities as well as be a good fit within your market place. 

6.    What are the government requirements for starting a business?
There are several federal, provincial and municipal regulations and requirements when starting a small business. The most common requirements involve: registering your business name, obtaining a municipal business licence, ensuring proper land usage and zoning, registering for Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), obtaining a Business Number, adhering to the requirements of Employment Standards and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), payroll, and maintaining accurate business records. There are also industry related permits or licences and environmental protection rules.  Not all of these requirements will necessary apply to your business.

7.   Do I need business insurance?
You should contact a qualified Insurance Agency or Broker to make sure you have adequate coverage before starting your business. There are several types of business insurance. Some of the basics coverage’s are:
•    General liability  
•    Property and business interruption 
•    Crime coverage
•    Professional liability

There are some associations or trades that provide group plans or industry specific coverage. 

8.   What professionals should I seek out when considering starting my business?
It is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of the appropriate professionals for specific issues when starting a small business, such as a lawyer, banker, accountant, insurance agent, business consultant, etc. 

9.   How should I structure my business venture?
The most common ways to structure your business are sole proprietorship, partnership, or incorporation.   There are many factors to consider when determining your business structure.  Listed below are just some of the pros and cons to each structure:  

A sole proprietorship is a business that you are operating by yourself. It is the easiest to open and the easiest to close.  It is also less expensive to start. All decisions are yours and it requires simple record keeping.  The sole proprietor files a business tax return along with his/her personal return. You are personally responsible for all the expenses, debt, and obligations of your business. You have unlimited liability.

A partnership is where you are working with other individuals and are jointly responsible for the business profits, losses and debt.  One of the advantages to a partnership is that you can combine skills and financial resources.  Partners are taxed on all the earnings in proportion to their shares in the business. Operating as a partnership has its challenges such as disputes between partners and divided authority.  BSL recommends an advisory board and the development of partnership agreement outlining the terms of your partnership. 

A corporation is a separate legal entity with limited liability. A corporation has increased creditability with financial lenders, suppliers, employees, etc. It is owned and controlled by the shareholders.  Ownership is transferable and has possible tax advantages. However, it requires more complex record keeping and tax returns.  It is closely regulated by government bodies and requires more administration.  It is expensive and more complex to start. The assets of the business belong to the corporation not the owners. 

BSL recommends before choosing your business structure that you consult with either a lawyer or accountant to discuss your options and level of risk. 

10.    What is a Commercial Lease?

A commercial lease is when a lessee (business owner) enters into a legally binding contract with the landlord for business or commercial purposes for a specific period of time in exchange for rent.  The lease agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party.   Some of the aspects are such items as, rental fees,  renewal options,  what services are being provided (heat, hydro, water), types of businesses who may be allowed to rent in your plaza, rent increases,  subleasing terms,  amount  per square foot, leasehold improvements, and the general maintenance of common areas.  

Lease agreements should be reviewed by a lawyer before signing. A commercial lease is not like a residential lease.  It is considered a contract negotiated with specific terms and timelines.  If the business is not doing as well as anticipated, the entrepreneur cannot just provide notice and leave.  He/she is obligated to pay rent for the time period agreed, unless otherwise indicated. 

11.   How much will it cost me to start a business?

Each businesses start-up costs are individual to the type of business venture and the level you intend to start.  If you were considering starting your own carpentry business and have most of the tools needed and a vehicle, the start-up costs would be low.  If you were considering leasing a commercial space, which requires significant leasehold improvements, or if you were considering purchasing large pieces of equipment, an existing business, franchise, or a commercial building, the cost would be considerably higher.

12.     Do I need to register my business name?
Under the Business Names Act of Ontario, if you plan to operate a business under a name other than your own or intend to add anything to your name, for example -  Bill Smith Plumbing, your are required by law to register that name. The registration must be renewed every five years. A name search should be done to ensure that no one else is using the name that you have chosen. The name should reflect your product/services.  It should not be confusing and cannot imply that it is structured differently than it is (i.e.:  Ltd. Inc.). You can register on line at:  
www.serviceontario.ca or in person in the Niagara Region at:

Ontario Information Centre-MTO Building
301 St. Paul Street, 1st floor, St. Catharines, ON
Telephone: 905-704-2111

Small Business Enterprise Centre
City of Niagara Falls (City Hall - public resource centre)
4130 Queen Street, Niagara Falls, ON 
Telephone: 905-356-7521

13.     Do I need a municiple licence to start my business?
Information on municipal licencing requirements is available through your local Town or City Hall. Each Municipality has the authority over local regulations, business licences and zoning requirements within its jurisdiction.

Additional information can be found through BizPal, which is an online service through Industry Canada in partnership with several provincial, territorial, and local governments to provide entrepreneurs with business permit and licence information for all levels of government. 

14.     Where can I get general information about starting a business?
To help set your plans in motion, the BSL offers a start-up package which contains general start-up information and business plan development for a small fee. BSL has a resource centre which houses a variety of reference materials.  A computer workstation, complete with printer and internet access is also available to BSL clients by appointment. 

15.   Is financial assistance available through BSL to assist with starting a business?

BSL provides loans to new or existing businesses throughout the Niagara Region.  BSL also delivers the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit Program and the Self- Employment Development Program to the residents of Greater Fort Erie.  For more information on a BSL loan or one of the government sponsored self-employment programs, call or make an appointment with a BSL representative.



45 Jarvis Street Fort Erie ON L2A 2S3
Phone: 905-871-7331
Email: info@bslforterie.ca
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